Mumbai, the country’s financial capital accounts for nearly 43 percent of Maharashtra’s children who missed regular schooling or were unable to attend school at all during the pandemic. Data compiled by the state government pegs the total number of ‘out-of-school children’ to 25,204 only. It also shows 10,820 of all ‘out-of-school’ children in the state belonged to Mumbai and its suburbs alone.
With the COVID-19 pandemic raging since last year, gaps in formal schooling snowballed as families across the state struggled with loss of employment and poor access to online learning etc. Aiming to identify and bring back the state’s out-of-school children into the formal state government-run schooling system, the government launched a 10-day state-wide survey in March (1-10 March) this year.
There are 1.7 crore children aged between 3-14 in the state. Children who have never been enrolled and those who have dropped out (missed school for a month or more) are considered as out-of-school children. According to the survey, 7806 children in the age group 6-14 have never been enrolled in schools, while 17397 students were considered amongst dropouts because of irregular attendance in 2020-21.
The data also reveals 288 of the state’s out-of-school children were engaged in child labour while 1212 children have special needs and were unable to attend schools last year. The data further points out 33,590 students migrated within the state itself while 14,000 plus students migrated from Maharashtra to other states. Of the total migrations to other states, 8,801 students belonged to Mumbai and its surrounding suburbs. Maharashtra also witnessed 7784 students coming in from other states.
Higher migration data has always been a cause of worry for it leads to a higher number of children, especially girls, falling out of the formal school education ambit, falling prey to social issues like child labour and child marriages. Experts however, are unwilling to accept the latest out-of-school figures as authentic since out-of-school numbers have remained high in the state even in pre-COVID times. The 2017-18 economic survey has reported as many as 48,379 children to be out of school in Maharashtra.
“The number shown in the report seem implausible, especially in view of the pandemic when access to education was difficult even in many urban areas. Many parents who lost their jobs returned to their villages as a result their children were unable to attend school through online classes. In tribal areas, schools remained closed even after November when the government allowed reopening of schools. If the government wants reliable numbers, it should engage non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who are aware of the ground reality rather than ask education department and school staff to conduct such surveys,” says Mahendra Ganpule, speaker and ex-president, principal’s association, Pune district.
The state’s education department claims it provided online education to more than 74 lakh class1-12 students in the absence of physical classes. A government resolution (dated 23 February) had called for tracking students in the age group 6-14 years missing formal education across all 36 districts in the state. However with districts like Amravati, Aurangabad and Buldhana recording a high number of COVID infections, the final survey reflects data collected from the remaining 33 districts in the state only. The survey had education department staff as well as school teachers conducting surveys in their localities. The education department will be issuing guidelines to have the children re-enrolled in schools as soon as possible.News, States